Unleashing the Curiosity: Igniting a Passion for Science Through Engaging Science Fairs

Caption: The Science Fair Club at OHS collaborates, explores, and pushes the boundaries of scientific knowledge!

Aanya Gupta

Caption: The Science Fair Club at OHS collaborates, explores, and pushes the boundaries of scientific knowledge!

Science fairs are a feared and overlooked experience by many students, but at the heart are really just an opportunity for students to work by themselves or with others to solve a problem or make an observation. Science fairs today are not just about the science’s learned in school like physics, biology, and chemistry, but also include engineering, robotics, AI, and even a mix of different categories. They provide students with the opportunity to apply what they know to a certain aspect of the STEM world and share an observation or offer a solution to a problem that they find pressing. 

Science fairs are usually divided into two different categories, science and engineering. On the scientific side projects usually range from testing products such as different kinds of fertilizers to investigating scientific experiments like how to make plants grow faster. On the other hand, engineering projects usually range from using light to create a conventional oven to developing a robotic arm. 

But why participate in a science fair? Even if submitting a project does not seem appealing, working on a science fair project provides an opportunity to further delve into and explore an idea or topic that might spark interest that may not get to be experimented with in class!

Both participants and judges truly believe in science fairs and their impact. Ms. Tock, a former participant in fairs as well as a judge, believes that science fairs can unleash immense creativity and provide students with an opportunity to work on something that they find truly delightful. She says science fairs “for young students, can be a forum to unleash creativity and try crazy things and generally delight in finding out what happens.” Ms. Tock not only has immense experience as a child with science fairs, but also as a teacher. When she takes her Astronomy Research Seminar students to Astronomy conferences, she notices how the students are surprised at how everyone there is truly and genuinely interested in science, rather than merely interested in winning prizes. This is what she thinks makes for a deeper and more genuine interaction. 

For young students, [science fairs] can be a forum to unleash creativity and try crazy things and generally delight in finding out what happens.

— Ms. Tock

Similarly, Dr. Vetter, organizer of the scientific research colloquium, is all for anything STEM related. She says, “Science Fairs can be an effective way to tap into natural curiosity. [She has] seen great examples where students have bit by bit chipped away at interesting problems and ended up really helping their community with their discoveries.” Dr.Vetter has seen many students make meaningful contributions to their communities through these scientific discoveries. However, she cautions against parents and other adults pushing children into research projects where the motivation isn’t from the student. She believes that creative, low-tech home-grown experiments that are driven by the child’s own questions and interests make for the best projects as they allow for the students to develop their own scientific hypothesis, test, and explore them in a way that is meaningful and exciting to them.

Likewise, Keshav Narang, a 6 time science fair participant finds science fairs as a great opportunity for learning and growth. Narang views this process of conducting research and presenting findings as a very valuable experience as he feels like it mirrors the process of real scientific inquiry and experimentation that could come in the future if one were to pursue science. Through his participation in the fairs, Narang has gained important experience in presenting his research to judges, getting feedback, meeting deadlines, and building on his previous research to develop new ideas and experiments! Overall, Narang sees science fairs as a great way to cultivate his passions for science and contribute to the forefront of scientific knowledge. 

In addition to the learning and growth opportunities, Narang also strongly values the supportive environment science fairs offer. Narang shares a personal anecdote where he was confused on what to title his project and decided to reach out to the organizers for help. He was met with a very kind response and they even offered to help him come up with a title for his project, and this kind of support and encouragement is what Narang believes fosters a strong mentorship and community that supports this learning and growth within science fairs. 

At OHS, some courses offer the opportunity to participate in a science fair, where you present your final project to the rest of the school and parents. Similarly, if you would like to submit your projects outside of the school to your local science fair, OHS also has their very own science fair club. This club provides you with support in all aspects of a science fair from the very beginning of the process through brainstorming, all the way till submitting your projects and presenting them to the club.  

Participation in science fairs also helps students to strengthen their soft skills. Through participating in a science fair, you gain a multitude of new skills including problem solving, time management, and communication, no matter what kind of project you want to submit. Interested in participating in a fair? If you are interested in participating in a fair, but don’t know how to get started, the first would be to participate in your local science fair. If you are a full-time student and don’t go to a b&m school, no worries, you don’t have to participate externally. If you would like to submit a project, OHS would be happy to sponsor your submission to your local fair.